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exerting itself in acts of goodness, in a manner suitable to propriety and rectitude.
Here a proper distinction ought to be made between goodness and mercy. Though it is demonstrably certain, that the Supreme Being is infinite in goodness, we must not imagine he is infinite in mercy. Because we can suppose innumerable cases, in which mercy to particulars would imply a defect of goodness upon the whole. In such cases, it is evident, that the greatest goodness, upon the whole, will appear in refusing mercy to particulars; not in granting it. We mult therefore conclude, that mercy will certainly be refused to all such offenders, whom justice and goodness to the whole require to be punished. Thus the Divine goodness is not bounded in its extent, but only regulated in its exertion by wisdom and justice.
From the same neceflity for concluding that the first cause must be uniformly, and in all consistent respects infinite, we must conclude, that he is pofleffed of an infinite degree of power; it being evident, that power is a perfection, and preferable to weakness. Infinite power signifies a power at all moments from eternity to eternity, and throughout all Ipace, to produce or perform whatever does not either in the nature of the thing imply an express contradiction, as making something to be, and not to be at the same time, or opposes some of the other perfections of his nature, as the doing something unjust, cruel, or foolish. And indeed all such things are properly impoflibilities. Because it is altogether as imposible that a Being unchangeably juft, good, and wise, should ever change to as to act contrary to his essential character, as that a thing should be and not be at the same time.
From the fame neceflity of concluding upon the uniform and universal infinity of the first cause, we cannot avoid concluding, that he is infinite in justice and truth, it being felf-evident, that truth is a perfection, and preferable to falsehood. The Divine nature must be the very standard of truth; he must be entirely master of the exact state of all things, and of all their relations and connections; he must see the advantage of acting
according according to the true state of things, and the right state of the case, rather than according to any false or fictitious one; and must perceive, more generally and universally than any creature, that the consequence of universal truth must be universal order, perfection, and happiness; and of universal falsehood and deception, universal misery and confusion.
If there be any other natural or moral perfections, for which we have no names, and of which we have no ideas, it is evident, not only that they must be in the Divine Nature; but that they must exist in Him in an unlimited degree. Or, to speak properly, every possible and consistent perfection takes its origin from its being an attribute of the Divine Nature, and exists by the fame original necessity of nature, as the infinite mind itself, the substratum of all perfection, exists. So that the necessity of existence of the moral perfections of the Deity is the very fame as that of the natural. Try to annihilate space, or immenfity, in your mind; and you will find it imposlible. For it exists necessarily; and is an attribute of Deity. Try to annihilate the idea of rectitude in your mind; and you will find it equally impoffible; the idea of rectitude, as somewhat real, will still return upon the understanding. Rectitude is therefore a necessary attribute of Diety; and all the Divine moral attributes, of which we have any ideas, are only rectitude differently exerted. And the recitude of the Divine Nature is the proper basis and foundation of moral good in the disposition or practice of every moral agent in the universe; or, in other words, virtue, in an intelligent and free creature, of whatever rank in the scale of being, is nothing else than a conformity of difpofition and practice to the necessary, eternal, and unchangeable rectitude of the Divine Nature.
Of every positive fimple idea that can enter into our minds, it may be said, that it is either something belonging to the Divine Nature (to speak according to our imperfect way) or it is a work of his, or of some creature of his. We do not say, God made immensity or space, duration or eternity, truth, benevolence, rectis tude, and the rest. But these are clear, positive, simple
ideas in our minds. Therefore they must exist. But if they exist, and yet are not made by God, they must be necessarily exiftent. Now we know, that nothing exifts necessarily, but what is an attribute of Deity, that is, one of our imperfect and partial conceptions of his infinite nature, which ingrosses and swallows up all pollible perfections.
Though we have here treated of the perfections of the first cause separately, and one after the other, we are not to form to ourselves an idea of the Supreme Being, as consisting of separable or discerpible parts, to be conceived of singly, and independently on one another. In treating of the human mind, we say it consists of the faculties of understanding, will, memory, and so forth, But this evidently conveys a false idea of a mind. It is the whole mind that understands, wills, loves, hates, remembers, sees, hears, and feels, and performs all the other functions of a living agent. And to conceive of its faculties as separable from or independent on one another, is forming a very absurd notion of mind which cannot be considered as consisting of parts, or as capable of division. When we say whatever is an attribute of Deity is a Deity itself, which is demonstrably true, we ought to understand it in the same manner as when we say, that whatever is a faculty of the human mind is the mind itself. Thus, though immensity alone, truth alone, infinite power or wisdom alone, though no one of these perfections alone is the full and complete idea of Diety, any more than understanding alone, will alone, or memory alone, is of the human mind, yet all the first, together with the other attributes, as they subfist in the Divine mind, are Deity, and all the latter, with the other mental powers, are the human mind, and yet neither the former nor the latter can be conceived of as divifible or made up of parts.
As the necessary existence and absolute perfection of God render it proper and reasonable to ascribe to him the creation of the universe; so his omnipresence, infinite power, and wisdom, make it reasonable to conclude that he can, with the utmost facility, without interruption, for intinite ages, conduct and govern both
the natural and moral world. Though the doctrine of Providence is found in the writings of the wise Heathens, and is therefore commonly considered as a point of natural religion; yet, as revelation only sets it in a clear and satisfactory light, I shall put off what I have to say upon it to the fourth book.
Our being utterly incapable of forming any shadow of an idea adequate to the true nature and essence of the Supreme Being, is no more an objection against the certainty of his existence, than the impossibility of our conceiving of infinite beginningless duration, is against its reality. What our reason compels us to admit, must not be rejected, because too big for our narrow minds to comprehend, nor indeed can we reject it, if we would.
Let us therefore do our utmost to conceive of the Su. preme Being as the one independent, necessarily-exiftent, unchangeable, eternal, immense, and universal mind, the foundation, or substratum of infinite space, duration, power, wisdom, goodness, justice, and every other possible perfection; without beginning, without end, without parts, bounds, limits, or defects; the cause of all things, himself uncaused; the preserver of all things, himself depending on no one; the upholder of all things, himself upheld by no one: from all moments of eternity, to all moments of eternity, enjoying the perfection of happiness, without the poflibility of addition or diminution; before all, above all, and in all ; possessing eternity and immensity, so as to be at once and for ever fully mafler of every point of the one and moment of the other; pervading all matter, but unaffected by all matter; beitowing happiness on all, without receiving from any; pouring forth without measure his good gifts, but never diminishing his riches; let us in a word think of him as the All, the Whole, the Perfection of Perfection.
While we view his adorable excellences according to our limited and partial manner, let us take care not to conceive of him as made up of parts, who is the most perfect unity. While we consider, in succession, his several attributes of power, wisdom, goodness, and the rest, let us take care not to form a complex or compounded idea of him, whose essence is absolutely pure
and fimple. We are not to think of various attributes, and then superadd the idea of God to them. The perfection or abstract of wisdom, power, goodness, and every other attribute, in one simple idea, in the one Universal Mind, which fills infinitude, is the most perfect idea we can form of incomprehensible Deity.
Here is a Deity truly worthy to be adored! What are the Jupiters and Funos of the Heathens to such a God? What is the coinmon notion of the object of worship; a venerable personage fitting in heaven, and looking down upon the world below with a very acute and penetrating eye (which I doubt is the general notion among the unthinking part of Christians) what is such a God to the immense and unlimited nature we have been considering!
SECT. II. An Idea of the Divine Scheme in Creation. The happiness
of conscious Beings, the only End for which they were brought into Existence. Happiness, its foundation. Universal Concurrence of all Beings with the Divine Scheme absolutely necessary to universal Happiness. O far we have gone upon a rational foundation in
establishing the existence of God, and his being poffeffed of all possible perfections. From the absolute and unchangeable perfection and happiness of God, it appears, as observed above, that his design, in creating, must have been, in consistency with wisdom and rectitude, to produce and communicate happiness. This must be kept in view throughout the whole of the scheme. When we think of the Creator as laying the plan of his universe, we must endeavour to enlarge our ideas so, as to conceive properly of what would be worthy of an infinitely capacious and perfect mind, to project. No partial, unconnected, or inconsistent design would have suited Infinite Wisdom. The work of a God must be great, uniform, and perfect. It must, in one word, be an Universe.